By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Rio Olympics, the old generation of international stars had its last moment in the spotlight and in Eurobasket 2017 the twilight of Spain’s golden generation gave its place to the dawn of a new era.
Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Lauri Markkanen brought the future now, as European basketball is evolving into something much closer to the NBA than ever before. Despite the empty seats in Istanbul – something that has to do more with the general popularity of the sport itself in Europe and not with the event – a tournament that started with talks about those missing, turned out to be a celebration of basketball and young talent.
However, what could have been the start of a new age, it’s just the first chapter in an experiment. With no major tournament until the 2019 FIBA World Cup, all the national teams are going to give qualification games in front of their home audience. For the major European national teams, this is the first time after almost 15 years. For the top teams, the results on major tournaments served also as qualification process for the next big competitions.
But this November you don’t get the national teams you would expect to see. All the NBA and the EuroLeague players will be missing and that means 70 EuroLeague players and 30 from the NBA, according to this year’s Eurobasket roster, arguably the top players of the tournament.
FIBA officials still hope that somehow EuroLeague and NBA players will be available for the July and September games. Meanwhile, USA basketball already created a national team without NBA players, which will compete in those games and recently won the FIBA AmeriCup, leaving no doubts about the NBA’s position on the matter. The American NBA players will be available only in two major tournaments, the Olympics and the FIBA World Cup.
In the old continent, EuroLeague clubs are not willing to back down and let their players compete for the national teams during qualifying games. The major European basketball countries who have EuroLeague clubs and NBA players are forced to create a “B team” which will not include the top talent.
There’s no doubt that the national teams which will compete in November and February will be missing their best players and in some cases, like Italy and Slovenia, their Eurobasket coaches. Ettore Messina and Igor Kokoskov simply can’t coach national teams in the qualification games due to the NBA schedule.
Everyone wants to cheer for the national team and for many European countries the national team remains the main locomotive of the sport. However, even if FIBA had announced its plans since 2012, five years later this situation in Europe creates more problems than the national teams and the national federations can really handle.
At this point, everyone is waiting to see if those qualification games will be a hit in the major European basketball markets, being played on November and February almost simultaneously with EuroLeague games between national teams missing their marquee names.
It may not be entirely FIBA’s fault, but things are going to get worse for the national teams until they get better.